Howard French

Africa is doing better than ever, and China seems to play a major role, compared to America. China and Africa veteran, the US journalist Howard French went back to Africa, traveled to continent, to find out whether America can catch up with China. His report in AllAfrica.

Howard French:

The [Obama] administration needs to be much more energetic and resourceful in encouraging American businesses to seek out opportunities in Africa. The profit motive is the best cure for the deep-seated strain of paternalism that runs through our relations with the continent. During my book research travels, I was surprised to learn in country after country that construction projects, worth as much as $200 million that are American financed through the Millennium Development Corporation, drew no bids from American companies. China was gobbling up this work until Congress passed a law saying that funding from the MDC could not be given to state owned companies.

In one capital city after another, I noticed that American embassies had shuttered their “commercial sections,” which historically have researched African economies and provided helpful information and contacts to American businesses looking for opportunities. In most of those cities, the Chinese have recently opened shop with their own commercial offices, usually not tucked away in an embassy, but housed in a well-appointed building of its own.

To avoid misunderstanding, it must be emphasized that Washington’s biggest problem with Chinese inroads in Africa has nothing to do with China. The real problem is that the United States has walked away from Africa, leaving the playing floor virtually empty, and it will take years of concerted political leadership, and not gimmicky laws, to get back in the game.

Much more in AllAfrica.

Howard French is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. Do you need him at your meeting or conference? Do get in touch or fill in our speakers’ request form.

China Weekly Hangout

Last week the China Weekly Hangout talked to Eric Olander of the China Africa project about the arrest of Chinese gold miners in Ghana, and the position of Chinese labor in Africa. Questions are asked by Asia-based Swiss lawyer Nathan Kaiser and moderator Fons Tuinstra of the China Speakers Bureau.

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